History of the Institute

History of the Institute

The *Goldrich Institute was established in 2005 by a generous endowment of the Goldrich Family in Los Angeles and donations from friends in honor of Jona Goldrich’s exemplary contributions and initiatives to commemorate Jewish collective memory and civilization both in his local area and in Israel. The Founding Director of the Institute is Professor Hana Wirth-Nesher of the Department of English and American Studies, who lead the Institute until the fall of 2020.

Its current Director is Dr. Hannah Pollin-Galay, who is a Senior Lecturer in the Literature Department.

The Goldrich Institute administers the Interuniversity MA Program in Yiddish Studies for the Tel Aviv Campus, the Anna and Max Webb Chair for Visiting Scholars in Yiddish as well as the Goldrich Family Foundation Advanced Yiddish Studies Forum, which allows our students contact with leading scholars in the field. The Institute is also the center for the Naomi Prawer Kadar International Yiddish Summer Program

Since its inception in 2005, the Goldrich  Institute has become a world-wide hub for promoting Yiddish studies in academia, devoted to increasing knowledge and awareness of Yiddish language and culture for the next generation both in Israel and globally.


About Our Donors 

The Anna and Max Webb Chair for Visiting Scholars in Yiddish was established in 2007 as part of the Goldrich Institute and the Anna and Max Webb School of Languages through the donation of the Webb Family of Los Angeles. Among the Webb  scholars who have taught at the Institute are Professors Justin Cammy, David Roskies, Michael Stanislawski, Dan Miron, Anita Norich.

When Dr. Naomi Kadar, one of the most beloved teachers of the summer program, passed away in 2010, her family donated scholarships for students during the summers of 2010 and 2011, and in 2012 the summer program was renamed the Naomi Prawer Kadar International Yiddish Program at Tel University after receiving a generous donation from the newly established Naomi Foundation.

In 2005, the Goldrich Institute, headed by Prof. Wirth-Nesher, and the Literature Department at TAU initiated a unique interuniversity MA Program in Yiddish Studies after being awarded a grant from Yad Hanadiv with partner institutions, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Ben Gurion University of the Negev. The Goldrich Institute continues to administer this MA program. The combined successes of the graduate degree program and the international summer course provided the strong base for the recruitment of a young scholar in the field of Yiddish studies to insure continuity and development of the field. To that end, the Naomi Foundation donated funds to make it possible to create a regular tenure-track appointment in Yiddish literature, and Dr. Hannah Pollin-Galay joined the faculty in the Literature Department in 2018.

With more advanced students affiliated with the Goldrich Institute, the need arose to provide more instruction, support, and enrichment at higher levels of Yiddish knowledge than introductory and undergraduate study.  To honor the memory of the founding donor of the Institute, Jona Goldrich, his family has now funded the Goldrich Foundation Advanced Yiddish Studies Forum, providing advanced scholarly and cultural activity. 


Jona Goldrich

Jona Goldrich, for whom the brutality of the Nazis was a harsh reality, fled Poland with his younger brother Avram, en route to Israel in a memorable 1942 trek through Europe.  A veteran of the War of Independence in which he served in the Israeli Navy and the Merchant Marine as a mechanical engineer, Jona immigrated to the United States in 1950, making his way by bus to Los Angeles in 1952 because "its climate is closest to that of Israel." There he began work as a window and screen installer, eventually becoming one of California's most successful developers of housing and a prominent philanthropist, particularly in the Jewish community.

A member of the TAU Board of Governors, along with his wife Doretta, he translated his love of Israel and the memory of his family members who died in the Holocaust into the growth of Tel Aviv University.

Reflecting his tennis and skiing skills, Jona was the catalyst in the development of The Goldreich Multipurpose Sports Center, The Goldreich Family Health and Fitness Center and the Sender Goldreich Fitness Room. In addition, he underwrote the Goldreich Chair in International Banking. He was especially proud of his founding of The Jona Goldrich Institute for Yiddish Language, Literature & Culture and The Annual Yiddish Summer Program at Tel Aviv University (2006-2011).

In Los Angeles, Jona was the prime mover behind the Los Angeles Holocaust Monument located in Pan Pacific Park, including the two annual Holocaust Remembrance ceremonies attended by thousands of adults and children. A former Man of the Year of the National Housing Conference, Jona was awarded  an honorary doctorate from Tel Aviv University.

Jona and Doretta’s children, Melinda and Andrea (married to Barry Clayton) have continued the legacy of their father’s devotion to Yiddish by establishing the Goldrich Foundation Advanced Yiddish Studies Forum which provides advanced study and cultural activity for those  whose knowledge obtained through the Institute has enabled them to benefit from advanced instruction and engagement with Yiddish culture. 

Jona viewed his three grandchildren, Garrett, Lindsay and Derek, as his personal triumph over Hitler.


The Naomi Foundation

Dr. Naomi Prawer Kadar was one of our most talented and beloved faculty members in the International Yiddish Summer Program. As a scholar, she focused on Yiddish children’s literature and as a language teacher, she brought both depth and innovation into the classroom. 

The Naomi Foundation , created in her honor after she passed away in 2010, quickly became a generous partner and advocate for Yiddish Studies at Tel Aviv University. The Naomi Foundation supports the Naomi Prawer Kadar International Yiddish Summer Program every year. In 2016, the Naomi Foundation also gave funding that enabled Tel Aviv University to hire a permanent faculty member in the field of Yiddish Studies, a position that was awarded to Dr. Hannah Pollin-Galay.


 Abraham I. Lerner

Abraham Isaac Lerner was born in 1907 in Warsaw, and died in 1993 in London. With the establishment of the Abraham I. Lerner Fund for Tel Aviv University, Mr. Lerner enabled the university to offer Yiddish language instruction throughout the academic year, as well as to support MA and PhD students with their research in Yiddish related studies. Love of Yiddish language and culture motivated Mr. Lerner to become a generous donor for this cause throughout his lifetime.


Max Webb

Max Webb was born in 1917, in Lodz, Poland where he lived with his parents, Avraham and Sheva Weisbrot, five sisters and one brother until 1939. By 1945, he had been in twelve concentration camps, including Auschwitz, and the Death March of 1944. He is one of three to survive in his immediate family. Max Webb passed away in 2018, shortly after celebrating his 101st birthday.

After liberation in 1946, Max married Sala Shapell in Munchberg, Germany, and they had two daughters, Helen, known as Chara, and Rose, both currently residing in Northern California. After immigrating to the United States, Max founded, together with his brothers-in-law Nathan and David Shapell,  Shapell Industries and Shapell and Webb, Inc. , which became the largest private home building business in Southern California. 

In 1991, Max married Anna Hitter Webb of Los Angeles. Born Chana Rubinstein, she enjoyed a happy and comfortable childhood in Poland until the outbreak of World War II, when her family was uprooted, first to Siberia and then to Uzbekistan where she  married Joseph Hitter, a fellow Polish refugee who has been educated at a Warsaw yeshiva and the Gymnasium in Lublin. In 1955 they immigrated to the United States, where they raised their two children, Steven Michael Hitter and Sabrina Hitter Silvers. In 1993, she married Max Webb, and together they shared a strong commitment to Jewish causes, both in Israel and in the United States until her death in 2011. 

Anna and Max Webb have been generous supporters of medical facilities, yeshivas, and higher education. At Tel Aviv University, they donated the Max Webb Family School of Languages Building and the Anna and Max Webb Chair for Visiting Scholars in Yiddish. They are among the founding donors of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the Los Angeles Holocaust Monument (spearheaded by Jona Goldrich).

Both Max and Anna Webb were awarded honorary doctorates from Tel Aviv University and Bar Ilan University.

* While previously called the Goldreich Family Institute, the name was changed to the Jona Goldrich Institute in 2022 in order to honor Jona's memory and to recognize the great generosity of his daughters, Melinda Goldrich and Andrea Goldrich Cayton.


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